Tenure of heavy-duty truck technicians has increased dramatically since 2018, according to the recently released State of Diesel Technicians report, produced by Trucks, Parts, Service parent company Randall Reilly and sponsored by Shell Lubricant Solutions.
At face value this is good news for shop owners; however, it also can be a double-edged sword.
According to this year’s survey, 48 percent of technician respondents have worked more than 20 years in maintenance and repair, compared with 16 percent when the survey was last conducted in 2018. On the other end of the spectrum, 8 percent of respondents reported working in the field five years or less, compared with 29 percent in 2018.
Nearly 50 percent of technicians with more than 20 years of experience is a hugely important statistic and good news for businesses — as it means many service providers have a staff of knowledgeable and seasoned techs. It’s unlikely there isn’t much they haven’t seen in the way of truck maintenance and repair. It’s also likely it takes them less time to diagnose downed vehicles, which equates to getting trucks back on the road more quickly and creating satisfied customers.
Unfortunately, there’s also another way to look at the above data that doesn’t paint such a rosy picture. The graying of the truck tech workforce is a well-known fact in the industry. As these shop veterans retire in increasing numbers, who’s going to take their place? A shortage of quality technicians has been a problem for years. While service providers enjoy the experience of their staff, they’d be wise to keep an eye on the future and consider ways of attracting new talent. Methods include an internship program or aligning with nearby schools.
Additional good news coming from the 2022 survey is fewer technicians appear to be job hopping. More than 70 percent of respondents reported having only one or two different maintenance/repair jobs in the last five years, according to the 2022 report. This is another important data point relating to the tech shortage. Technicians know they’re in demand and some will jump ship to go to another company offering more pay. Moreover, companies poaching techs isn’t uncommon in the industry, either.
In the survey, technicians were asked how they complete training in their current role. More than half (51 percent) said their employer sends them to training events and/or brings trainers to the facility where they work. Employers providing access to OEM/supplier online training courses and employers having company-side training curriculum came in at 38 percent each. Additionally, nearly a quarter of techs said they are encouraged to seek out their own training, with only 13 percent of responders saying they receive no training in their current role.
Ongoing training is important in developing techs for numerous reasons. For example, training benefits employers as it promotes a more knowledgeable and efficient staff and employees want to learn and improve upon their skills. Furthermore, as covered later in our series, the availability of training is a factor in techs choosing what companies they want to work for.
Well over half of technicians in our 2022 survey said they were not certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Although the percentage (61 percent) might be high, 73 percent reported not being certified in the 2018 survey. In 2022, 35 percent reported they were certified, 10 points higher than four years ago.
Of those technicians certified, it’s likely they earned more than one ASE certification. Just shy of 40 percent of techs have 1 to 5 certifications; 29 percent reported 11 to 20 certifications (only 7 percent in 2018); and 27 percent reported having 6 to 10 certifications.
The data implies a change of attitude regarding training. Employers are more invested in training; more techs are invested in improving their skills; and both techs and employers see importance in ASE programs.
According to the 2022 survey, a little more than half of technicians (54 percent) reported being certified by an OEM. And those who are, appear to be certified by several. Techs were asked which OEMs they were certified by and the top companies by the number of tech certifications were Cummins (62 percent), Volvo and/or Mack (38 percent) and 29 percent of respondents reported certifications with Eaton, International and Paccar (Peterbilt/Kenworth).
Partner Don Purcell says Stone Truck Parts encourages its technicians to receive ASE certification through online means or at local technical schools.
But not all shop owners stress ASE certification with their employees. Some feel their own training programs are better.
For example, President David Washbish says LASCO Heavy Duty used to promote ASE certification in the past. “But over the years we feel our own in-house training is, by far, better than paying ASE for sending its tests without any training from [the technical certification group].”
Part 2 of the 2022 State of Diesel Technicians report will address technicians’ thoughts on career advancement, pay and benefits. It will appear on Tuesday in Trucks, Parts, Service.